Wide-ranging enough to encompass Buster Keaton, Charles Babbage, horses, and a man riding a bicycle while wearing a gas mask, The Counterfeiters is one of Hugh Kenner’s greatest achievements. In this fascinating work of literary and cultural criticism, Kenner seeks the causes and outcomes of man’s ability to simulate himself (a computer that can calculate quicker than we can) and his world (a mechanical duck that acts the same as a living one).
This intertangling of art and science, of man and machine, of machine and art is at the heart of this book. He argues that the belief in art as a uniquely human expression is complicated and questioned by the prevalence of simulations—or “counterfeits”—in our culture. Kenner, with his characteristically accessible style and wit, brings together history, literature, science, and art to locate the personal in what is an increasingly counterfeit world.
Hugh Kenner (1923-2003) was perhaps the greatest Anglophone literary critic of the 20th century: no other figure has been so instrumental in our understanding of modernism and its key figures, or so crucial to the development of new ways to think about new literature. He was that rare thing, a critic whose writing is so deft and mind so vivid that his criticism attains the condition of poetry; in that sense, he must be ranked beside Benjamin, Coleridge, and Goethe. He also wrote a book-length study of Chuck Jones cartoons, an introduction to geodesic math, and one of the first user’s manuals for personal computing. Kenner taught at UC Santa Barbara, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Georgia.